Principal Museums

The nation’s most significant relics are preserved at the National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafni Íslands), founded in 1863. All kinds of sources of Icelandic cultural history are also stored there, as well as information about national life and customs. In addition, district museums in the country look after relics which relate especially to social ways in the regions. The National Museum of Iceland housed the National Gallery of Iceland (Listasafn Íslands) until it moved to its own building in 1988.

The National Gallery of Iceland is a museum of national artworks with an emphasis on nineteenth- and twentieth-century art, Icelandic and exotic. It has the largest collection of Icelandic works in the country, by all of the greatest artists of the nation.

The National Book Stack (Þjóðarbókhlaðan ) was established in 1994. It is the largest library in the country and combines the National Library of Iceland and University of Iceland Library. The National Library of Iceland–University Library (Landsbókasafn Íslands–Háskólabókasafn) is a research library and functions as both the national collection and the library of the University of Iceland. Its main tasks are, amongst other things, to keep all material published in Icelandic and to operate as a general lending library which fulfils the need of the University of Iceland as regards Icelandic and foreign scholarly texts. It has special national and manuscript sections.

The artworks belonging to the City of Reykjavík are kept at Listasafn Reykjavíkur (the Reykjavík Art Museum). It also houses a splendid exhibition room. Reykjavik Art Museum are in: Kjarvalsstaðir, Ásmundarsafn (Asmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum) and HafnarhúsKjarvalsstaðir is named after the Icelandic painter, Jóhannes S. Kjarval, one of the most favoured artists of the nation. He bequeathed a large part of his work and personal items to the City of Reykjavík in 1968. Special exhibitions of Kjarval’s works are held at Kjarvalsstaðir every year. Ásmundarsafn is named after Ásmundur Sveinsson, one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture. He was among those who introduced Icelanders to a new form of art in the 20th century. His sculptures can be found in public places throughout the country. Ásmundur donated his collection and his home and studio at Sigtún to the City of Reykjavík. There the Ásmundur Sveinsson Museum has been open to the public since 1983.

Safnahúsið was opened in 2015 in an old building which before housed the National Library of Iceland and is considered to be amongst the treasures of Iceland’s architectural history. Safnahúsið hold exhibitions which bear upon the cultural history of Iceland.

The Living Art Museum (Nýlistasafnið , lit. the new art museum) is a very large collection of artwork and sources that has managed to preserve a special part of Iceland’s art history. The collection includes works by most of the members of the SÚM group, the museum has works by many of the most important young artists in the country, and it constantly adds new works. The museum also holds works by 50 foreign artists, among them one of the world’s largest collections of works by the German-Swiss artist Dieter Roth. All the works in the museum’s holdings have been chosen by the artists themselves, not the museum’s experts.

Akureyri Art Museum is one of the youngest art museum in Iceland. Ironically, the idea that Akureyri should have its own museum was suggested in a newspaper article in 1960 by politician Jónas Jónsson, who happened to be the most adamant opponent of modern art of his time. Three decades passed until the idea again came under serious discussion and finally became a reality on Akureyri's anniversary, August 29th 1993.

In addition, there are many smaller museums and exhibition halls throughout the country.